Whenever we think of Jesus’ famous words, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you,” we typically reflect on someone who’s been a pain in one way or another. Or worse yet, someone who has really had it out for us, or abused us in some way. We don’t typically think of ourselves. It’s much easier to think of our problems as being outside of us—as something or someone I can’t control. But the truth is, there are plenty of times when we are the only one standing in our way. We can go months, sometimes years, thinking we were never really the problem in a particular set of circumstances. It is usually after a mind-altering kick in the rear that we come to the realization, we’ve been doing something to perpetuate the circumstances we’ve come to hate.
Thankfully, none of us is alone in this self-directed comedy of errors. From children to adults, we love to believe that our worst enemy is someone on the outside looking in. When in reality the worst version of ourselves is secretly thwarting our good plans in the minutia of everyday life. So in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, and in an effort to help us overcome the enemy within, here are three steps you can take.
Be honest. Take an honest look at your life and reflect on why you are doing what you are doing. And if your own behavior baffles you, talk to a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor. In our society we love to throw the term narcissist around. And there is a misconception that a narcissist is blind to their own shortcomings. The truth is, I’ve met many a narcissist who is very aware of and completely fearful of their faults. That’s why they expend so much time and energy trying to avoid them. The opposite of a narcissist is someone who is not only aware of their faults, but actually takes time to reflect on their faults. And they reflect long enough to come up with some answers to some basic questions. Like, “What need am I meeting by participating in this behavior?” or, “Who’s benefiting from all of this chaos in my life?”. And last but certainly not least, “If I keep doing this, does that mean I’m enjoying it on some level?”. What separates the men from the boys, and the women from the girls is accepting the dark parts of yourself that are somehow profiting from whatever dysfunction you’ve got going on.
Be humble. Taking an honest appraisal of your life and your behavior is only the first step. You then have to be humble enough to accept some hard truths. Rule number one on the road to humility: Admit you’re not the man or woman you thought you were or wish to be. The very fact that you’re in a perpetual pattern of destructive behavior tells you all you need to know. You didn’t see this coming, and you were unaware or unable to prevent it from getting to where it got. This humility may feel like someone is ripping your guts out. But trust me, you didn’t need those types of guts anyway. They were holding you back like a bad case of IBS, and taking a good dose of humble pie will have you well on your way to overcoming what ails you.
Be Courageous. It was Franklin D. Roosevelt that said: Change is only possible when we determine that living differently has to be better than continuing on in the same fashion we always have. Fear will always attempt to ruin any sort of unity or progress that could come from facing our own inner turmoil. The courage to move forward, despite our fears telling us to stop, is key to successfully navigating healthy behavior change. There are some types of fear that are a benefit to us. Like being afraid of heights or mortar fire. These fears help us stay alive and take assessment of life-threatening dangers. Then there are emotional and psychological fears that keep us stuck in a chaotic pattern of behavior. When we apply logic to these fears, they ring hollow and don’t make much sense. Like enabling an abusive relationship or returning time and time again into an addiction. These fears lead us down dark paths and are not to be trusted. They are based in lies we tell ourselves in order to meet some sort of false belief we hold, and they must be answered with the courage to quit them for good.
So my hope for you in this New Year is that you’re able to identify some of the false beliefs allowing fear to reign supreme in your life. We all have fears that sidetrack us from being the healthiest versions of ourselves and there’s always room for improvement no matter what stage of life we’re in. Don’t let the fact that you’re getting in your own way slow you down. Keep pressing forward in truth, love, and grace. Be kind to yourself in your failures, and relentless in the pursuit of truth.